Google Pulls Out a Rhetorical Method to Try to Win the AI Spoils

November 20, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

In high school in 1958, our debate team coach yapped about “framing.” The idea was new to me, and Kenneth Camp pounded it into our debate’s collective “head” for the four years of my high school tenure. Not surprisingly, when I read “Google DeepMind Wants to Define What Counts As Artificial General Intelligence” I jumped back in time 65 years (!) to Mr. Camp’s explanation of framing and how one can control the course of a debate with the technique.

Google should not have to use a rhetorical trick to make its case as the quantum wizard of online advertising and universal greatness. With its search and retrieval system, the company can boost, shape, and refine any message it wants. If those methods fall short, the company can slap on a “filter” or “change its rules” and deprecate certain Web sites and their messages.

But Google values academia, even if the university is one that welcomed a certain Jeffrey Epstein into its fold. (Do you remember the remarkable Jeffrey Epstein. Some of those who he touched do I believe.) The estimable Google is the subject of referenced article in the MIT-linked Technology Review.

From my point of view, the big idea is the write up is, and I quote:

To come up with the new definition, the Google DeepMind team started with prominent existing definitions of AGI and drew out what they believe to be their essential common features. The team also outlines five ascending levels of AGI: emerging (which in their view includes cutting-edge chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard), competent, expert, virtuoso, and superhuman (performing a wide range of tasks better than all humans, including tasks humans cannot do at all, such as decoding other people’s thoughts, predicting future events, and talking to animals). They note that no level beyond emerging AGI has been achieved.

Shades of high school debate practice and the chestnuts scattered about the rhetorical camp fire as John Schunk, Jimmy Bond, and a few others (including the young dinobaby me) learned how one can set up a frame, populate the frame with logic and facts supporting the frame, and then point out during rebuttal that our esteemed opponents were not able to dent our well formed argumentative frame.

Is Google the optimal source for a definition of artificial general intelligence, something which does not yet exist. Is Google’s definition more useful than a science fiction writer’s or a scene from a Hollywood film?

Even the trusted online source points out:

One question the researchers don’t address in their discussion of _what_ AGI is, is _why_ we should build it. Some computer scientists, such as Timnit Gebru, founder of the Distributed AI Research Institute, have argued that the whole endeavor is weird. In a talk in April on what she sees as the false (even dangerous) promise of utopia through AGI, Gebru noted that the hypothetical technology “sounds like an unscoped system with the apparent goal of trying to do everything for everyone under any environment.” Most engineering projects have well-scoped goals. The mission to build AGI does not. Even Google DeepMind’s definitions allow for AGI that is indefinitely broad and indefinitely smart. “Don’t attempt to build a god,” Gebru said.

I am certain it is an oversight, but the telling comment comes from an individual who may have spoken out about Google’s systems and methods for smart software.


Mr. Camp, the high school debate coach, explains how a rhetorical trope can gut even those brilliant debaters from other universities. (Yes, Dartmouth, I am still thinking of you.) Google must have had a “coach” skilled in the power of framing. The company is making a bold move to define that which does not yet exist and something whose functionality is unknown. Such is the expertise of the Google. Thanks, Bing. I find your use of people of color interesting. Is this a pre-Sam ouster or a post-Sam ouster function?

What do we learn from the write up? In my view of the AI landscape, we are given some insight into Google’s belief that its rhetorical trope packaged as content marketing within an academic-type publication will lend credence to the company’s push to generate more advertising revenue. You may ask, “But won’t Google make oodles of money from smart software?” I concede that it will. However, the big bucks for the Google come from those willing to pay for eyeballs. And that, dear reader, translates to advertising.

Stephen E Arnold, November 20, 2023


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